Hello everybody. We are coming to the close of another magical “Accounts Payable Recognition Week” and it got me thinking… Why do we honor Accounts Payable professionals? Actually, the better question is, “why have we dedicated only one single week to this celebration?” Think about it….
On the premise that Accounts Payable (AP) is the group that cuts the checks – and often makes payroll or sends expense reimbursements… on that premise alone… why aren’t we staging a ticker tape parade down main street right now? Why haven’t we started printed trading cards and naming flavors of ice cream after these hallowed titans of disbursement.
Just one week?
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I spent the last fifteen years at Lavante selling into AP departments and maybe I have developed and incurable bias toward AP. Something to do with trying to get these good people to love Lavante and buy my wares. But maybe… just maybe I am on to something. Maybe AP needs some more love and some more appreciation.
Think about the roles and responsibilities of an AP department within an organization. AP is the very last department in the entire P2P process to touch the transaction before it leaves the door, but they are typically on the hook for any errors! They had nothing to do with the recipe or the baking or the decorating, but they are blamed for the taste of the cake. They are the fingerprint left on the dollar – so to speak. They are the responsible party. And even with all that pressure and even with the odds stacked against them… they do a damn good job! In my own experience serving the AP community I have observed that most payment errors typically stem from a shortcoming in the suppliers’ data and NOT in the AP process. In reality, the high precision of AP groups is staggering.
As my good buddy Eric Jones likes to say, “AP is responsible for paying the right person the right amount at the right time.” (That’s what I think he says anyway… I can’t always understand that Carolina drawl.) This seems like an easy enough charter – so this should be simple to do, right? It should be as easy as putting mail in a mail box. Just picture it… walking through a meadow to a large blue USPS collection box and placing mail in the front slot. Now just to make it resemble a real AP department let’s image a couple more things: Imagine you are delivering this mail while walking through a mine field (not a meadow) and imagine that there are 50 different mailboxes – all with different pick up and delivery schedules (and you don’t know the schedules) and imagine Nolan Ryan is following you and throwing baseballs at your head while you are trying to do this. That is what life is like in a real life AP department.
OK… I might be exaggerating a little, but not much. AP is often forced into a no-win situation, They are sandwiched precariously between a procurement department, their company’s employees, their supplier population, and of course they are directly downstream from financial management. On a daily basis their suppliers are calling and asking the world’s oldest and most undignified help-desk question, “Where’s my money?” Their procurement brethren are wondering “why did AP screwed up a crucial payment?” Employees are looking to get paid and/or reimbursed and management is asking them to do it all with less and less resources – “Or we may have to outsource.” And Nolan Ryan is following them around with a bucket of baseballs.
So what do we do? What can we do? We designate one week… an important week and a glorious week. The second week of October because let’s face it, AP just wrapped up quarter close and now they are about to start getting blasted for 2016 planning, but they have this one week to really let their hair down. Even the bald people. This week and this weekend… AP reigns supreme. Go Crazy. Be Awesome. This is your week AP; this is your time to shine. Sleep under your desk if you want to; start a flash mob in the break room; sneak a flask into work (just be sure to fill it with OJ); have a great time! You have been plugging away at the daily grind for months and you’ve kept the checks coming; you’ve kept the vendor file clean; you’ve kept the fraudies out and you haven’t asked for a dime. Not like those hacks in marketing. (hey wait a minute)
For all of your efforts. For your resilience and for your precision… to all my AP peeps. I, and all of Lavante, and all of the citizens of the corporate world… we salute you!